Last update: 01 May 2023, 06:26 HST
Auction house Christie’s will launch next week the sale of hundreds of jewels that belonged to Austrian billionaire Heidi Horten, whose husband, a German businessman, made his fortune under the Nazis.
Christie’s will offer 700 lots from the Horten collection, including “unique and exceptional pieces” from 20th century designers such as Cartier, Harry Winston, Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels.
The entire collection has an estimated value of over $150 million.
The sale could eclipse previous records set by Christie’s in sales of properties that belonged to actress Elizabeth Taylor in 2011 and the “Maharajas and Mughal Magnificence” collection in 2019, both of which topped $100 million.
Topping the collection is a rare Cartier ruby and diamond ring, which weighs 25.59 carats and has “a saturated pigeon’s blood color and fine clarity”, according to the auction house.
“What makes this collection particularly remarkable is the breadth and quality of the gemstones represented,” said Max Fawcett, Head of Jewelery at Christie’s in Geneva.
“You’ll find everything from costume jewelry and one-of-a-kind fine jewelry pieces, to historical jewelry of exceptional provenance,” he added.
Heidi Horten died last year at the age of 81. According to Forbes, she was worth $2.9 billion.
– Nazi Party –
According to a report published in January 2022 by historians commissioned by the Horten Foundation, her husband Helmut Horten, who died in Switzerland in 1987, was a member of the Nazi party before being expelled from it.
In 1936, three years after Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, Horten took over the Alsberg textile company based in the western city of Duisburg after its Jewish owners fled.
Later he took over several other stores that had been owned by Jewish owners before the war.
“How could a 27-year-old man take over a department store? Did he put pressure on the (Jewish) seller?” write the historians.
“The giant among West German entrepreneurs remained silent about his activities in the years 1933-45. Thus persists today the image of an unscrupulous profiteer.
The Allied Denazification Committee exonerated Helmut Horten after the war.
On its website, Christie’s says “Mr. Horten’s Nazi-era business practices, when he purchased Jewish businesses sold under duress, are well documented.”
Christie’s CEO Guillaume Ceruttit told AFP in a statement that the auction house’s decision to accept the sale was made after “mature consideration”.
“It was never Christie’s intention to withhold information about Mr. Horten’s well-documented history and we have added relevant information to our sales documents and website to ensure the facts are clear. for everyone,” he added.
The auction house pointed out that the proceeds from the sale will go to the Heidi Horten Foundation, created in 2021 to support the eponymous art collection, as well as to medical research, child protection and other philanthropic activities supported by the wealthy heiress.
“For our part, Christie’s will make a meaningful contribution from its final auction proceeds to an organization that will advance Holocaust research and education,” he added in his online statement.
Four hundred Horten lots will be sold at Christie’s Geneva auction house from May 10 to 12.
More pieces will be sold online May 3-15 and November.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)